My Quest For Happiness

Serenity Prayer1I’ve been in a writer’s funk, not because I’m at a loss for words, but I’ve been feeling glum. Since the car accident, my birthday and wedding anniversaries cause me to reflect on life more as well as what I haven’t accomplished. I know I have a blessed life, but it isn’t anything like I’d expected. Many dreams have not become reality and life’s expectations go unfulfilled and it appears the clock is ticking faster and louder with each passing year. I’m realizing some of these wishes and goals may be unattainable under our circumstances. It’s hard to separate what’s worth striving for and what to give up on. I’m not getting any younger and Mark’s not getting any better. The realization of both sometimes overwhelms me to the point where I just want to hide under the covers until Mark can take care of himself. Some days are hard to face, but I make myself get out of bed and do it anyway.

I’d hoped that every year the adjustments would get easier. It did the first several years while Mark was progressing. Seven years after his traumatic brain injury he started having seizures, which brought new challenges. Every added year without the capacity to be physically active brings more difficulties.It appears we are getting older at a faster pace than most others our same age. The major health concern right now is Mark’s hips. I was able to put the worry aside for a few weeks while I focused on recovering from my hernia surgery. Now that’s behind me, it’s time to deal with the more serious matter.

Besides the pain, Mark no longer is capable of bending his hips at ninety degrees, which is the optimal bend for sitting. It makes sense to me that this inability to sit properly is causing his poor posture, which results in low back and neck pain every time he changes positions.

Twenty-two years ago, Mark had extra calcium buildup in both of his hip joints scrape out. We don’t regret that surgery because it gave him years of improved hip function, but now he has arthritis and lots of scar tissue, which is part of the problem. The only hope for possible improvement now is for two total hip replacements. Unfortunately, he’s not a great candidate for this surgery. Twenty-four years of physical inactivity and little weight-bearing ability are making his bones soft and brittle. There’s a worry of them breaking and the muscles being strong enough to hold the hip replacements. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In order to make the right decision, which the responsibility to do so weighs heavily on my mind, we need more information. This means more doctor’s appointments and opinions.

You may wonder how a hip replacement can be beneficial for someone who doesn’t walk. Besides the sitting concern, which I’ve already explained and believe is contributing to his low back and neck pain; there is the issue of difficulty in transferring from one position to another. Getting him moved from his chair into bed, standing frame or shower/commode chair is tough because his hips don’t easily move. My cue for Mark before most transfers is, “nose over toes,” meaning lean forward because it makes the transfer so much easier. I didn’t realize until just recently that his hips will not allow him to bend forward. Think about the body mechanics of getting out of a chair. Usually, my hips bend about 120 degrees before standing. At best, Mark’s hips only have the ability to bend at eighty degrees, which means it’s a hard pull forward to get him up. A more recent problem is that after sitting for hours his hips don’t want to straighten up, which results in a second pull. Adding balance issues means he is a hard transfer and needs complete assistance to get from one spot to another.

I’ve been upset in the past because hospital nurses and aides are afraid of transferring Mark. I do it with little thought and haven’t realized how hard it is for someone who isn’t use to handling him. A few weeks ago, Mark’s shower/commode aide who was scheduled to come for six weeks during my recovery time, quit after nine visits. I’m still learning how hard it is to be a caregiver.

Nothing can drag me down faster than health worries. Sometimes I think it would be nice if someone else could live my life and take over my responsibilities. Maybe they would make better choices and do a better job. Since that’s not possible, there’s only one thing to do: press forward every day and do my best to find happiness along the way.

Happiness defined by is “the quality or state of being happy; good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.” My good fortune is faith, family and friends. The love and support I feel from all three, brings me pleasure and contentment. What brings your happiness may differ from mine, but if we recognize what affects our joy and hold onto it by putting it first in our lives, we can more easily weather the storms.

I was reminded in church today that happiness is found by concentrating on what matters most. I made a list of what I thought makes me happy. It included a clean house, laundry completed, an organized desk, beautiful yard, exercise, a healthy diet and a well maintained vehicle. While looking at my list I realized these things bring peace of mind when they are done, but not lasting happiness. Then I noticed I didn’t list any recreational vehicles, or vacation spots. I thought, how strange, these things are dreams, which I’ve always imagined the beauty and enjoyable time bringing me happiness. It occurred to me it isn’t the places I go, or the toys I have that brings joy. It’s the people I’m with that matters the most. My good fortune is definitely family and friends. By recognizing and appreciating what I do have and giving love and care to the people who matter most, I can feel peace and contentment in my not-so-perfect life, finding true happiness.

Twelve Steps for Self Care

12 Steps for Self Care

1) If it feels wrong, don’t do it. Usually, when I do something which doesn’t feel right it ends up being a disaster.

2) Say “exactly” what you mean. Communication can be frustrating and sometimes I wondered why the other person didn’t understand what I meant to say. When I analyze what was actually said, I realize I didn’t use the proper words or maybe I was trying to sugar coat it or danced around the meaning, which left a false impression. Other times I just didn’t know exactly what was meant until the conversation was over. Maybe those are the times it’s best to be quiet and just listen to the other person.

3) Don’t be a people pleaser. It is enjoyable to please others, but when words are just said and not heartfelt, it’s lost pleasure and becomes bothersome. When you hear “we should get together sometime” or “let’s do lunch” from the same person every time you run into them, it’s lost its meaning.

4) Trust your instincts. Remembering this can save grief and regret later on. My best results come when I listen to the inner voice and trust my instincts.

5) Never speak badly about yourself. Sometimes I do this in an attempt to be humble, but it doesn’t build self-character. On the other hand, when I hear someone else doing this I feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to respond, wondering if they’re looking for compliments or sympathy.

6) Never give up on your dreams. I feel uncomfortable using the word never, however it’s true that if you don’t dream it, you won’t achieve it. Some dreams just need adjustments along the way while achieving them.

7) Don’t be afraid to say “No”. It’s not possible to do everything, therefore saying no is better than saying yes and not doing it.

8) Don’t be afraid to say “Yes”. Sometimes “no” is the easy way out when asked to do something we’ve never done before. When we say yes and stretch outside our comfort zone, we learn and grow.

9) Be KIND to yourself. It’s easy to judge ourselves without understanding why we can’t accomplish what others do. Often we compare our imperfection to someone else’s perfection, not realizing their circumstances or the time and effort they’ve put into perfecting this skill. Because we’re usually striving to be a better person, it’s difficult to accept our own shortcomings and mistakes. It’s important to be the best you can be, while forgiving yourself and learning from your mistakes.

10) Let go of what you can’t control. A lot of energy, time and emotion can be wasted on things out of our control. Progress is best made by focusing on what we can control.

11) Stay away from drama and negativity. I usually avoid this by not listening to talk radio or watching much television, but I don’t stay away from people I care about because they are going through a rough time which is causing them to be negative.

12) Love. There’s a difference between love of self and an excessive love of self. A balanced love encourages us to love others equally. I undoubtedly cross over the line sometimes, but try to be aware of it. I know I’m happiest when giving genuine love to other people and realize that’s when I feel the most loved.